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Whats all the hubub about compost tea recipes?  RSS feed

 
Dar Helwig
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Read a lot of stuff on compost tea and everyone has a special recipe. Isn't compost tea made from just any old organic stuff (food, grass, manure, dirt, compost, etc), left to rot a little and then added to water and left to ferment? I want the short and quick version.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Quick short version: Some items are "richer" than others, for a really rich tea, use only the richest components for the compost and make sure to aerate while it brews.

Think like a computer program, garbage in = garbage out.

Redhawk
 
Brandon McGinnity
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Location: Winston-Salem, United States
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You can do it quick and easy, for sure. But as Bryant said, use the richest ingredients. Myself I do a compost tea, not a fermentation thing, so I'm using finished compost, not raw plant matter, as I don't know much about that myself. I have an aquarium bubbler in a 5 gallon bucket that I make mine in. My thought is that the best results will come from having a wide variety of ingredients in the compost that you make the tea with. Not always the case, because when I make compost it just depends on what I have around; but any is better than none, I figure.
 
Nicole Alderman
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From what I understand, the way you make your compost tea--if you aerate it, how  long it ferments, and what you put in it--really impacts what type of bacteria and fungus you grow in there. If it's anaerobic, you get microorganisms that you probably don't want in your garden. Elaine Ingram has the Compost Tea down to a science--literally, she has a doctorate in microbiology--and she goes into detail on how to make both the compost and the compost tea to get specific results in your garden.  Here's her recipe: http://www.soilfoodweb.com/Compost_Tea_Recipe.html.

There's a few fascinating threads here on permies about compost tea. Here's one: https://permies.com/t/56107/story-microbes-accomplish-miracles-culture. I'm kind of under the impression that, as long as you keep your mixture aerobic, the tea will be beneficial, but it might be even better if you brew it with just the right type and amount of ingredients.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I like reading Elaine Ingram's material and find it interesting, but I find that it isn't really useful to me in any practical sense.  Here is Elaine's basic (really?) compost recipe:

Compost Tea Basic Recipe

A basic tea recipe would be as follows, with the understanding that if larger or smaller quantities of water are used, change the amounts of additives relative to the amount of water.

a.  25 gallons of water, aerated to remove chlorine, add two teaspoons of a humic acid solution (preferably humic acid extracted from your own compost).

b.  1 to 2 tablespoons of humic acid diluted in 2 cups of water BEFORE adding to the compost tea water OR 1 to 2 tablespoons of fish hydrolysate (pre-diluted to neutralize the acid preservative according to the label on the container).

c. 1/2 cup of kelp mixed in 5 cups of water BEFORE addition to the compost tea

d.  5 pounds of good aerobic (good smelling, like deep forest soil) compost with excellent bacteria, fungi, protozoa in the compost. Using a microscope, assess the compost: Using a 1:5 dilution of compost, 400X total magnification, there should be a MINIMUM of thousands of bacteria in each field of view, 1 strand of fungal hyphae in each 5 fields, 1 flagellate or amoebae in each 5 to 10 fields of view and 1 beneficiall nematode per drop.

Additional foods if needed to improve fungi: 1 cup steel cut oats, or bran flour, or shrimp shells (no protein on the shells!) put in the compost bag with the compost

Replace humic acids with the same amount of fish hydrolysate if the plants need a nitrogen boost

NO MOLASSES!!!

Now this may be really great advice, but is there anyone here other than possibly Redhawk that can implement this in any meaningful way?  Let's start at a.  First I need to extract humic acid from my compost.  WTF?  Some of it needs to be added to 25 gals of water, and then some more of it needs to be added to a smaller amount of water, and then added to the larger amount of water.  A little later, I bust out the microscope and make sure I have thousands of bacteria, 1 strand of fungal hyphae (in five fields no less) 1 flagellate...  Now we are really into the WTF?!?!?! area.  I'm not willing to do college level research to grow squash and potatoes.  A question for the collective:  Has anyone actually done this?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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You make some good points Todd.

First off I will say that I have done this process, it works as advertised. Then I found ways to streamline it and simplify things for easy use by anyone.
Dr. Ingham's method(s) do work and if you are doing work of the order that she is, then you do need the equipment to do so.
Is it really necessary? for certain things I have to say yes for most of it, I have to say "it depends on how exact you desire to be".

Is it necessary to do extractions in order to make good compost tea? No, it just speeds up the processes that will occur during the brew.
Are the ingredients critical? Again, it depends on how you want to do it, exact, best improvement possible in the shortest time possible or going a little slower.
Dr. Ingham is trying to do rapid soil improvement so for her these things are critical to get to the end results as fast as possible, this is not necessary for many people but it is available because of her work.

This recipe is for a tea that I have been using for two years now and it does wonderfully for my needs in a timely manner.  you can do some math and increase or decrease the quantities to suit your containers/ needs.

I use a 55 gal. barrel as my brew pot this is mostly because I am treating right at 5 acres of soil. Since I have noticed that most folks on permies are using around 1 acre I will adjust the measurements to fit into a 5 gal. bucket, an easy to get and handle brew pot size.

3 gal. water, do aerate for at least 1 hour before making additions, this helps the H20 head towards the desired saturation of oxygen for the benefit of the bacteria and fungi that we want to grow.
1 round point shovel full of finished compost, if there is manure in this compost all the better, if not, no worries. ( I consider a shovel full as what I can lift and not have any fall off)
At this point you stir the compost into the water, the air stone should still be on.
From this point on you can make additions of fish emulsion, mineral sand, chopped up mushroom caps, pretty much anything you want to add to your soil through a watering will work.
Sugars are bad in a tea so don't add any, you can always do that in another application should you want to do so.
once you have used the ingredients you want or need you stir and let this brew for at lest 24 hours but no more than 3 days, this is to keep the organisms you are growing alive and healthy when you use the tea on your plants.

So, do you need a microscope? No, but I always recommend that if you can afford 300 dollars, they are handy to have on hand and use for many things. Plus seeing the bacteria we talk about is pretty interesting, just not necessary.
Is Kelp necessary? no but like most additives to a compost tea, it will help in a lot of different ways but you will have good results even if you don't have it.

The thing to remember is that using teas is a great way to add micro organisms that are in short supply or missing entirely, that is their main purpose in gardening.
Need more bacteria than fungi? make the adjustments to your tea brewing to lean heavily towards bacterial growth.
If it is fungi you need more of, then some diluted molasses can be sprayed over the soil just before you spray the tea.

This is a fun thing to do because you will see nearly immediate results, spray the soil with the tea and two days later, you can see the plants responding.

NOTE: I do not spray leaves of plants, I spray the soil. When you spray a tea on plant leaves you run the risk of clogging the stoma of the leaves and that can suffocate the plant leaf, not what I am looking for.
this is my personal choice and my personal reason, as always trials will show what works best for you.

Redhawk
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Thank you Redhawk.  That is exactly the kind of information I like.  It's gives me good useful advice that I can implement immediately and that I know is worthwhile. 
 
stephen lowe
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I love compost tea and have used it regularly for several years. Where I live it is cool and damp all year long and I am a very lazy composter, for those 2 reasons I don't very often succeed in making what I would call high quality compost.  Compost tea is my work around. I buy actual high quality compost (costs around $100 bucks a yard, or $15 for a 1.5 cubic foot bag). I also use a 55 gallon brewer and I also use a screen bag to keep particulates to a reasonable level in the finished brew. In the bag I add a couple shovels full of compost, a shovel full of worm castings (I use my own when I have enough but often buy a bag of those as well), a couple handfuls of any mature manure that I have (changes depending on who has manure they will give me), a hand full or so of Insect frass and bokashi if I happen to have either of those around, and some Azomite.  I toss that bag in the bubbling water and then add fish hydrolysate (about a pint) and humic acid (about an ounce) and some kelp if I have it.  Let this bubble for at least 12 hours but more ideally 24-48 (depending on temp, in the summer you can get away with 12 hour brews if its hot, in the winter I often go closer to 72) then I spread it where I think I need it.

Unlike Redhawk I do like to spray it on the leaves, if you filter the tea I have had no problem with clogging stomata and there are fungi and bacteria that live on leaf surfaces and can compete with molds and mildews.  I also have a specific tea that I brew occasionally specifically for spraying on plants to deter pest and mold.  It is in a 5 gallon bucket, a handful of worm castings, a small handful each of bokashi and insect frass, bubbled for 6-18 hours. Right before I spray I like to add a couple ounces of kelp if I have it around.  I find that it works great to prevent powdery mildew (a scourge in our area) and seems to deter insect pressure.

All in all though I feel like compost tea is a very efficient way to get the probiotic benefit of compost into your garden without having to produce or purchase compost on a large enough scale to actually cover your garden.  It's also really fun if you're into sciency type stuff (and I wish I had a microscope to look at the tea to see).  Elaine Ingham has shown with sound science that the use of quality compost tea is a good business move for commercial producers, producing higher yields and preventing pest/disease pressure. So, the hubbub, I think, is that it is an effective tool that is sort of flamboyant and futuristic seeming and it also lends itself to everyone having their own special recipe that they can insist is the best.  All hobbyists favorite pass time.
 
Harry Soloman
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Location: Pennsylvania, Dauphin County
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you can make garden, compost, worm or what have you teas in many ways.

You can customize your tea for say early veg, veg, transition, early fruiting, middle fruiting etc.  Simply by adjusting ingredients.

However, I will say I look at garden teas as a tool that should be incorporated into a larger management regime.  I consider it like guiding the soil bio life than anything else.

Spraying on the leaves, use fulvic acid as it is a smaller molecule than humic and when you fulvic acid with Kelp it works very well together.  In foliar feeding if you use fulvic acid it will help penetrate the leaves better.

A simple garden tea for 5 gallons:
A handful of compost (good compost, mushroom, leaf and sea materials are spot on)
A handful of worm castings (has humic acids in it)
A handful of cow compost/manure or Guano  (Be sure to use correct guano if using for your period of growth)
A bit of kelp.
A bit of rockdust (I have via worm castings as a food/media addition to the worm bin.)
I do add a bit of molasses but some dont.


I have stopped mostly making garden teas as I work towards more natural farming as the natural farming techniques create better microbe environments and are more effective towards the plant.
I am speaking specifically of natural farming inputs.
 
stephen lowe
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Harry, I'm glad you brought up the fulvic/humic issue. I just heard of fulvic acid in the context of foliar a week or so ago and have been casually inquiring in my circle of friends to find out what the story is. Many people have told me that fulvic acid(s) are indistinguishable in many ways or maybe even a subset of humic acid(s). Humic and kelp is one of my go to quick sprays, and I'm actually planning to go harvest my own fresh kelp tomorrow morning but I've never even seen fulvic acid for sale. Can you offer a little more info on fulvic and what brands it might be marketed as or how it could be extracted from compost? Thanks.
 
Dar Helwig
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I was reading about using rabbit poop to make compost tea and it occurred to me that using manure could lead to e coli contamination of plants and vegetables. Is this a possibility or is manure ok to make tea out of? Would manure supply the same kind of bacteria as finished compost would? I think the two would create completely different concoctions.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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were do I get kelp? Pich it up at the beach? And rockdust - in Australia?
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Rock dust is usually made from ground up granites, and it can mostly be found at nurseries.
Green sand is another method of getting the minerals normally associated with rock dust.
Kelp can be found at nurseries or if you go the coast, it can be found either in the water or washed up on shore after a storm.

Rocks from your own area usually won't give you any minerals that aren't already in your soil, just as a reference.

Redhawk
 
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